The importance of charity is irrefutable. Within our societies, it allows us to reach out and aid vulnerable communities, giving hope and support to millions of people around the world. On an environmental level, charities and nonprofit organisations are often found leading the fight against pollution and championing the need for conservation and sustainability.
In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly declared 5th September as the International Day of Charity. The day serves to raise awareness about charities and their work, get people to recognise their responsibility within society as well as inspire them to take action and help others.
The Spirit of Diving in the face of COVID-19
In these trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic, the diving community has once again shown its goodwill and humanity through charity work.
In the Philippines, Hammerhead Spearguns promptly addressed the nationwide shortage for face masks by converting their wetsuit factory into a surgical mask factory and donating them to the hospitals and first responders in Cebu.
Meanwhile, in Australia, the instructors and staff of Passions of Paradise, a scuba diving eco-tourism company, have repurposed their unused dive boats, taking them to the Great Barrier Reef to plant corals as part of the Coral Nurture Programme. Within three days, the programme has planted over 1,000 pieces of coral on Hastings Reef.
However, when the COVID-19 crisis struck the world, the diving community also became one of the hardest-hit industries. Concerns from the virus in the early part of this year has led many dive centres, resorts and liveaboard operators to close their businesses. Marine parks struggling to cope with the drop in visitors and entry fees have seen themselves encountering greater challenges regarding the protection of marine biodiversity in these areas.
Our oceans have also been dramatically affected. Despite the decrease in pollution levels worldwide as millions across the globe are placed under lockdown, the quarantine has left dive sites unprotected from illegal fishing within the Marine Protected Areas (MPA). Waste from the pandemic has become a new form of pollution as well, with single-use personal protective equipment swamping the oceans.
How can you celebrate the International Day of Charity?
While the onslaught of news revolving around the coronavirus may have left many of us feeling helpless and uncertain, every little action that we make as a community can have a profound impact on the oceans and those dependent on it. This International Day of Charity, here are some ways you can get involved.
Reach out to your local dive centres or resorts to find out if there are ways to support their businesses. Donating to marine parks can also aid the preservation of marine species in these areas.
If volunteer programmes are available in your country, joining activities such as conducting fish counts, getting rid of invasive species, planting corals or removing marine debris from the oceans will positively impact marine biodiversity. Supporting charities at the forefront of ocean conservation and their work can also aid in the protection of our blue planet.
Here are some ocean-saving charities and non-profit organisations as well as charitable campaigns launched by those from our very own diving community to consider giving your support to:
Project AWARE works with volunteer scuba divers and focuses on implementing lasting change in two core areas: shark conservation and marine litter. Their actions collectively protect the most vulnerable marine species and decrease pollution.
Headed by Dr Sylvia Earle, Mission Blue focuses on areas around the world that are critical to the health of the ocean and our survival. Known as Hope Spots, the team embarks on expeditions to these places to document vital ecosystems and ignite support to safeguard them as marine protected areas.
Sea Shepherd Global is an international, non-profit marine conservation organisation that engages in direct action campaigns to defend wildlife and conserve and protect the world’s oceans from illegal exploitation and environmental destruction.
An international organisation exclusively working for the conservation of oceans, Oceana is dedicated to achieving measurable change by conducting targeted, science-based policy campaigns. They advocate for increasing marine biodiversity, restoring ocean abundance and protecting habitat by winning policy victories in countries that deliver nearly 29% of the world’s wild marine fish catch.
Founded in Malaysia in 2010 by Anuar Abdullah, Ocean Quest Global is an environmental organisation working in seven countries through Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean. Through their programmes and courses dedicated to securing a sustainable future for coral reefs, the organization focuses on giving back to local communities and protecting the marine environment
Green Fins, a public-private initiative of the United Nations Environment Programme and Reef-World, supports members of the diving and snorkelling industry in their efforts to reduce their environmental impact by providing training, posters, information, videos and guides.
Founded by Gary Stokes and Dr Teale Phelps Bondaroff, Oceans Asia investigates and researches wildlife crimes, exposing and bringing to justice those destroying and polluting marine ecosystems.
Mitochondrial disease robs the body’s cells of energy, causing multiple organ dysfunction or failure. David Strike is walking 35 kilometres in The Bloody Long Walk to help Australians living with this disease and raise funds for research into desperately needed treatments and cures.
Launched by CINDAQ, Mexico, the campaign provides food and basic supplies to rural Maya communities impacted by the coronavirus pandemic due to a loss of income from ecotourism. As their communities depend on the tourism industry as their main source of income, they have been greatly affected by the coronavirus pandemic which led to a dramatic loss of income.
BALI Needs Your Help!
The campaign was created by Paul Tosh Tanner to support the people of Bali during this economic recession brought on by the pandemic. With 80% of Bali’s economy coming from tourism, the country’s shutdown from March 2020 till the end of the year means that the island will go a year without 80% of its economy. Paul makes use of donations to buy basic supplies for sustenance, purchasing food from local farmers and superstores and passing it to NGOs, SOS Children Village International and Food for the Soul Denpasar, to give food directly to those who need it. To help out, you can contact Paul on his Facebook for more details here.
Feed the Hungry of Riviera Maya, Mexico is a GoFundMe set up by Todd Essick to help feed the children of families in Riviera Maya that are going hungry as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. In Mexico, where there are no organised food banks or reliable government programmes to help feed those in need, Todd has been working with Father Hubert Rainer and a group of dedicated individuals to feed the hungry in Riviera Maya. The funds collected are used to provide additional food packages in impoverished neighbourhoods and to buy food for the soup kitchen run by Father Patrick at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Playa del Carmen.
Ultimately, charity comes in different forms. Whether volunteering your time or donating, the impacts of charity are significant and can make a world of difference for vulnerable communities and the environment. Underwater360 would like to thank all charities for their tireless work and wish everyone a Happy International Day of Charity!